Kelly Slater’s “Apolitical Process”

Slater ain't Wonka, he's Warhol

Recently Kelly Slater’s been imposing his face over the portraits of late cultural icons like Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, Leonard Nemoy’s Spock, and most recently, in honor of his entrance into the world of high art, happy little cloud enthusiast, Bob Ross. But walking through “Apolitical Process”–the gallery show he’s curated with Purps partner and RVCA founder P.M. Tenore, California-born painter Kevin Ancell, SURFER Staff Photographer Todd Glaser, and the show’s true star, Bruce Reynolds, a renowned Florida found-object artist, and longtime friend of Slater–I couldn’t help but think a better re-appropriated mug would have been Andy Warhol.

Because what Slater’s brought to Venice is a good old-fashioned Happening. Gently pulling strings, puppeteering like only Slater can, he’s pulled off one of the most unusual and brilliant gallery shows the surf world has seen in ages.

Because what Slater’s brought to Venice is a good old-fashioned Happening. Gently pulling strings, puppeteering like only Slater can, he’s pulled off one of the most unusual and brilliant gallery shows the surf world has seen in ages.

“Apolitical Process” came about, oddly enough, after Slater connected Reynolds, an old friend from Cocoa Beach, with Huey Lewis–of Huey Lewis and the News—who was looking for a commissioned piece.

“Kelly and Huey are good friends. They play a lot of golf together,” Reynolds told me. “They started talking a lot of politics late last year, because of everything that was going on with Donald Trump.”

At Lewis’ request, Slater asked Reynolds to make a piece.

“I did this crazy piece, with Donald Trump riding a wave on hundred-dollar bills, and they loved it,” Reynolds said. “Kelly floated the idea that we should do more, so we decided to document this election cycle in my style.”

 

The work of Bruce Reynolds. Photo: Glaser

The work of Bruce Reynolds. Photo: Glaser

For eight months, Reynolds holed up in his Cocoa Beach studio, hammering out massive mixed-media, found-object sculptural installations, all in response to the madness that’s befallen the country during the 2016 election cycle. From time to time he would send Slater a text, show him his progress: colorful, unnerving sculptures of automatic weapons, made from discarded paint roller handles, broken gardening tools, busted tape measures, and myriad variety of refuse plastic, metal, and fiberglass. Canvasses with impressive, Basquiat-influenced abstracts framed by old plastic dolls petrified in fiberglass. With the body of work growing everyday, they needed to figure out what they were going to do with it.

“Florida Atlantic University got word of the project, and wanted to do something,” Reynolds said. “But I thought, it’ll be good there, but it won’t be great. I told Kelly, ‘Listen, if we can do something out there [in California] with you and your friends, it’ll be amazing.’ He called Pat Tenore, and Pat got back to us about ten seconds later, saying, ‘I’m in, let’s do this thing.'”

Accompanying Reynolds’ numerous installations, “Apolitical Process” features work from Slater’s collaboration with Ancell, a visual protest against the treatment of Orca Whales in captivity at Sea World and elsewhere around the world, a cause Slater took interest in after the 2012 film Blackfish revealed just how tragic and terrifying circumstances were for the beautiful captive beasts.

 

California-born artist Kevin Ancell with the Blackfish-inspired pieces he collaborated with Slater on. Photo: Glaser

California-born artist Kevin Ancell with the Blackfish-inspired pieces he collaborated with Slater on. Photo: Glaser

“Two years ago, Kevin and Kelly and I were staying on the North Shore, and every morning we’d make coffee and they’d go outside and start painting on the boards, in response to Blackfish ,” Glaser said. “We ended up doing 23 boards. We wanted to raise awareness for the orcas held in captivity, but we never knew how we were going to show them.”

Last year, Ancell held a massive comeback show, Nos Vemos en Venecia at Folding Table, and had a good relationship with the gallery. When Kelly approached Ancell about “Apolitical Process,” Ancell immediately thought of the space.

“We didn’t know what we wanted to do with the boards,” Ancell told me. “I basically built this space last year for my show, so when I called up Kai [from Folding Chair] and asked him about the space. He said, ‘That’s your space!'”

Glaser’s work features images of Slater from the last few years, many of which that have never been seen, printed on sheets of aluminum.

“Knowing Kevin [Ancell], and having an idea of what Bruce [Reynolds] was putting in the show, I had a sense of how I wanted to put my perspective on the whole idea of the show, ‘Apolitical'” Glaser said. “I wanted images that complimented what Kevin had done, with the Blackfish boards, and choose images that show a time where you’re totally removed from the politics of the world and from the constant flow of news from social media and television. For me, the ocean is one of the few places you can be apolitical, disconnected, but also totally immersed.”

 

 Kelly Slater making an apolitical statement all his own. Photo: Glaser

Kelly Slater making an apolitical statement all his own. Photo: Glaser

The night was rounded out with an impromptu performance by Matt Costa, who Tenore had called up that morning and rallied into playing the event, as well as G-Love. Mike D. made an appearance; Johnny Knoxville made some rounds. Movie stars mingled with salty characters just getting back from sessions up and down the coast, groups crowded around their cell phones to look at shots of Malibu or Newport Point, before getting back to enjoying the night’s entertainment.

Happenings like this–spontaneous, surprising, timely–often seem the result of people like Slater and Tenore just saying, Yes, and going for it, rolling the dice. I ran into Tenore (who has built an empire by doing just that–saying, Yes–outside the gallery, as he was running around putting out another in what had surely been a week-long succession of fires. Glaser, Ancell, Slater, Tenore, and a small fleet of friends and colleagues had been up very, very late for several nights in a row, making the show happen.

“I mean, I pulled every string I have to make this thing happen,” Tenore — who is no stranger to the panicked, last-minute nature of the art world — said. “Man, I wanted to say, No, so many times. But Kelly kept pushing, and we got it done.”

Addressing the crowd late in the evening, before Costa went on, Slater explained what had kept him going with the project:

“Tonight was dedicated to Bruce Reynolds, my old friend from Florida.” Slater said. “These pieces are how he observes the political environment in America. Because there’s a lot of really interesting and strange things happening this year.”

And Slater can proudly count “Apolitical Process” amongst them.

 

The night's honorary guest, Florida found-object artist, painter, and sculptor Bruce Reynolds. Photo: Glaser

The night’s honorary guest, Florida found-object artist, painter, and sculptor Bruce Reynolds. Photo: Glaser


You can see “Apolitical Process” tonight at Folding Table Gallery: 201 San Juan Ave (corner of Main St.), Venice, CA 90291, from 7-10 PM. The show runs through October 9, 2016.

  • Dante

    I don’t get it…! Ya Kevin Anchell is a master artist/painter. But this new show that’s supposed to be so exciting and “Political” …? Again nice busy sculptures of found objects…But what is the big profound deal here ? Maybe Kelly should stick to surfing and playing music !

    • Gordon

      a thought: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running for POTUS. No one – seemingly – wants either one of these people in the white house yet they are the ones representing their respective parties.
      THis is really fucked up. or the majority of people in the uSA do want this. also fucked up.
      There is no shock value anymore. social media and watching violent porn and all the memes on the internet have pretty much numbed us.
      so some guy picks up junk and makes war machines, guns and collages of trump as the antichrist. banal, really. yet somewhat profound that it is so boring, it might actually be thought provoking because you have to get bored to get it, lose the stimulation.
      to step away from the insanity, to feel bored looking at art that might have been provoking even in the 90s (maybe with a little more neon). to intentially bore the audience to actually make them step back and think and feel about the edge of the cliff where not only the uSA but the world might be teetering on. perhaps that is the idea.
      or maybe some guy takes junk collecting really serious and has the proximity of influential friends to do an art show and have a really good party!
      There is probably meaning there and depth. Art has lost its place for the common human more or less unless it is on the side of a building somewhere because it is truly in the realm of the elite and fringe romantics. otherwise just go to wal mart and get a monet poster.
      I tired to get it, maybe I didn’t.
      Maybe Dante, the point is to expose people like you, who say, “I don’t get it” not as intellectuals but as people who do not even try to think about a concept and have nothing to offer other than a dismissive sarcastic remark and a throw away sentence.
      be a little creative in your critique, you could have fun.

    • Eve

      Kelly Slater like most true surfers are artists at heart. Each time he pops up on a wave, he’s choosing to express himself by dancing on a wave with a piece of glassed foam as his dancing shoes. He’s also a musician, another proof he’s an artist. Art is subjective, try not judge it. Just enjoy it. And if you don’t, find art you do enjoy.

  • Trogan Fan

    dude will put his name on anything these days.

  • eversurf5

    My kid would get suspended from school for making this kind of “art”